These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

THE POWER OF TWITTER

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kettering Town on Saturday 9th January 2016. This game was postponed and eventually played on Tuesday 1st March 2016. We lost 3-1 in front of 294

This is a story about social media, never ending rain and a football chairman with his finger on the pulse – or at least the keyboard of his phone.
While the incessant rain in the north had led to homes and football grounds going under water, the South had escaped the worse of the deluges. So when the call came through that the Hungerford game was off, it was time to start searching for local games using the world of twitter as my friend. Now twitter can be time-consuming, self indulgent, distracting nonsense and I often find myself about to post something before deleting it knowing that no-one apart from my immediate family really care about the funny face they had pulled when I waved an organic carrot at them (there's an UglyFruitandVeg twitter account that covers that). But for political protests and football clubs it is a godsend and something that I put in my Non League Manifesto as something leagues should demand as essential. Forget penalising clubs for that extra turnstile that no one will ever squeeze through or that 250 seater stand that will remain empty for most of season, what the FA should be doing is finding ways to improve pitches so more games can be played on them and a crash course on twitter. In Slough, you have Robert Stevens who keeps you up to date with Berkshire sport while in Sussex we have some great non league feeds like Sussex Football and top football blogger Ian Townsend who champions Sussex teams.

Lewes proudly announced there wasn't a problem with their pitch, but just as I was heading for the bus to the Dripping Pan, the game was called off. Thousands in lost revenue and unsold food and beer for a community owned club bottom of the league is hard to swallow; and while angry tweets complained it was called off too late I think we should cut the club some slack. Lewes cant even win at home let alone predict future weather patterns.

Throughout the morning, the Shoreham chairman, Stuart Slaney had kept up incessant chat – as games were called off, he tweeted to the clubs encouraging them to come to Middle Road. It was like that voice at the back of your head telling you to ignore the Dry January nonsense and buy that pint at the bar.

Non League is a small family and Stuart knew that there are no massive rivalries at this level and fans wanting to fill the long festive period with another game, they could be tempted if he just kept chipping away. So when I made my way across the quagmire of the park that surrounds the ground half hour into the game, I became the 149th person through the gate. The best crowd of the season for a club that averages around 60, with supporters from Eastbourne Town, Whitehawk and Lewes in the crowd and no doubt others. 13 hours spent on the pitch by the groundsman last week had really paid off. By the end of the game the pitch looked like my allotment, but with no home game meaning no income for two weeks, it was financially important to get the game on.

It was also a game where you could also guarantee goals, although Shoreham hadn’t gloated about just how bad their opponents were on twitter. St.Francis Rangers are rooted to the bottom of the Southern Combination League premier division with no points from 22 games, just two goals scored and 151 conceded - officially the worst team in England. At the beginning of the season their manager had left taking all their players. With relegation a dead cert, it would be too easy to throw in the towel but with a thriving youth set-up St.Francis, just like Shoreham, is more than just about the first team. In the end it finished 8-0 and with every goal, Mr.Chairman asking everyone if he had the score right before tweeting. It would have been worse if it hadn’t been for the Rangers keeper who looked like an abominable mud monster at the end

Shoreham is now managed and populated by the team that played for East Grinstead who won promotion to the Ryman League a few seasons back, something that Shoreham aspire too. But rather than just throw money at promotion, the trick is to find the formula that lures Albion fans occasionally to populate the terraces and get more locals going to games. Which as any non league official will tell you is bloody hard work. Building your club through youth teams means at least there are youngsters at Shoreham who have to fetch lost balls and get into the habit of live Saturday football. And as they spend most of their teenage years glued to their phones, they will no doubt be getting a gentle electronic reminder from the Shoreham chairman to get along and support their team.

1 Comments:

Blogger stuart slaney said...

Great blog

7:37 pm

 

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